75 user 52 critic

Emperor of the North (1973)

Emperor of the North Pole (original title)
In 1933, during the Depression, Shack the brutal conductor of the number 19 train has a personal vendetta against the best train hopping hobo tramp in the Northwest, A No. 1.


Robert Aldrich




Cast overview, first billed only:
Lee Marvin ... A No. 1
Ernest Borgnine ... Shack
Keith Carradine ... Cigaret
Charles Tyner ... Cracker
Malcolm Atterbury ... Hogger
Simon Oakland ... Policeman
Harry Caesar ... Coaly
Hal Baylor ... Yardman's Helper
Matt Clark ... Yardlet
Elisha Cook Jr. ... Gray Cat (as Elisha Cook)
Joe Di Reda ... Dinger (as Joe di Reda)
Liam Dunn ... Smile
Diane Dye Diane Dye ... Girl in Water
Robert Foulk ... Conductor
Jim Goodwin ... Fakir (as James Goodwin)


It is during the great depression in the US, and the land is full of people who are now homeless. Those people, commonly called "hobos", are truly hated by Shack (Borgnine), a sadistical railway conductor who swore that no hobo will ride his train for free. Well, no-one but "A" Number One (Lee Marvin), who is ready to put his life at stake to become a local legend - as the first person who survived the trip on Shack's notorious train. Written by Brian Peterson calyooper@email.com

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The only way to win is to stay alive. See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The film was set in Oregon in 1933. The movie was first released in 1973 thereby making it exactly forty years after the events depicted in the movie were set. See more »


Among the freight cars seen in the train yard is a plug-door boxcar. These were not invented until the 1960s. See more »


Hobo: Guess who, Shack? It's the big bad 'bo, Shack. And he's gonna bite your big bad ass!
See more »

Alternate Versions

All UK versions are cut by 3 secs by the BBFC to remove shots of 2 men being hit with a live chicken during a fight scene. See more »


A Man and a Train
Lyrics by Hal David
Music by Frank De Vol
Sung by Marty Robbins
See more »

User Reviews

Polar Express, it ain't!
2 March 2005 | by ptb-8See all my reviews

There were just so many great B movies made in the 70s and this is one of the best. Stark and cruel but completely watchable and with two excellent male leads, this brutal hobo railroad drama remains fixed in most viewers minds forever. It is also part of two great sub genres...the depression years drama and the railroad thriller. So many films to choose from in either genre and practically all watchable and enjoyable. EMPEROR was released for about 10 days and never surfaced again. I used to add it in as a double feature in my cinema right up until about 1980 and it always commanded major discovery status. The problem is the title: and like DAY OF THE LOCUST or EMPIRE OF THE SUN or other confusing titles the pubic never found it themselves. It failed on first release and was only repeatedly discovered when the public went to a double feature as described above. In Oz it was released only as EMPEROR OF THE NORTH. You could almost mix'n'match films in those days; THE STREETFIGHTER, BUSTER AND BILLIE, THE SPIKES GANG, FROM NOON TILL THREE, WHATS THE MATTER WITH HELEN, BLOODY MAMA, all interchangeable in any programme. Others here can tell you the story, but I will tell you to find it yourself and have a major discovery film enter your library.

17 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 75 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.






Release Date:

24 May 1973 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Emperor of the North See more »

Filming Locations:

Buxton, Oregon, USA See more »


Box Office


$3,705,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (FMC Library Print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

We've Got Your Streaming Picks Covered

Looking for some great streaming picks? Check out some of the IMDb editors' favorites movies and shows to round out your Watchlist.

Visit our What to Watch page

Recently Viewed